New think tank tackles urbanisation in Africa

The Africa think tank, a partnership between Cities Alliance and the African Center for Cities, was formed to reflect the unique complexities of urbanization on the African continent. The partnership features a broad range of members with a global focus.

Its primary objective is to support Cities Alliance in the review of its portfolio of work in Africa. It also aims at promoting and informing international public debates on urban policy, underlining the crucial role of cities in the structural transformation and sustainable development of Africa.

The think tank is structured around four main activities:

-Map stakeholders in Africa’s urbanisation, detailing the key institutions and individuals capable of influencing a shift in thinking and practice on African cities, and identify targets for the Think Tank’s policy outputs and partnerships.

-Provide greater visibility for the urban debate in Africa at development dialogue forums that will flow from the New Urban Agenda, and actively guide the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs—specifically Goal 11), Paris Agreement, and related sustainable urban development initiatives.

-Produce position papers and policy briefs on Africa’s urban development.

-Conduct research into urban innovations, including the setting up of a repository of innovations.

Policy briefs

The first two policy briefs have now been published. One, written by Camaren Peter, deals with the importance of urban policy coalitions, and the necessity of mapping urban controversies in a collective manner. Camaren argues that coalitions are key to the structuration of urban policies in Africa because they are platforms where diverse interests and priorities are filtered and channeled.

Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank thus proposes that a “fit for purpose” multi-level governance system is required to bridge the gap in finance and institutional capacity between national and local levels, one that draws on different sectors of society to actualise. These coalitions require leadership that thinks through an integrated vision of urban matters on the continent, at different scales, and in accordance with local contexts.

Download brief

The other policy brief by Camaren Peter, Blake Robinson and Mark Swilling, is titled African cities in the urban anthropocene.  Facing the challenge of climate change, a rapid urbanization, urban spatial and infrastructural layout that impair agglomeration dynamics in African cities, the authors call for a new paradigm of bioregional economic diversification.

“This vision for a sustainable African urban transition essentially revolves around achieving resource efficiency at the city level, as well as improving access to opportunities for the poor, and boosting resilience and adaptive capacity” (p:7).

They argue that it can be achieved by focusing on three technological areas of intervention: public transportation and Transit Oriented Development ; energy efficiency and renewable energy; and the transformational role of ICTs with respect to sector and regional integration.

Download brief

 Think Tank Members

The Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank is chaired by Edgar Pieterse, Director of the African Centre for Cities, based at the University of Cape Town.

Alcinda Honwana, Professor in International Development at the Open University.

Clare Short, Chair of the Cities Alliance Management Board.

Fantu Cheru , Senior Researcher at the African Studies Centre, Leiden (the Netherlands).

Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule, Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Addis Ababa.

Gustave Massiah, Professor Emeritus of Urbanism and President of the Support Group of Africities.

Jane Weru, Executive Director and founding member of the Akiba Mashinani Trust, Kenya.

Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).

Kadiatou Sy, former Minister of Town Planning and Housing in the Government of Mali.

Mohamed Halfani, former Head of Research at United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Nairobi.

Trevor Manuel, former Cabinet Minister in the Government of South Africa.

Yemi Cardoso, Chair of Board, Citibank Nigeria.



Publisher Cities Alliance Africa Think Tank
Year 2016
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